By Robert Cinnante
The concept of Music for Food came into existence over dinner with friends and colleagues. We spoke about the need to use our training and talents to serve our community. We felt that a concert series with a focus on fighting hunger here at home would serve artists, audiences, and more importantly, those in need.
–Kim Kashkashian, Founder/Artistic Director of Music for Food
The story of Music for Food begins at the dinner table. This customary gathering place is one of fellowship, fueled by the exchange of food and drink amongst family, friends, and colleagues. It gives way to discussions and debates, and is often the birthplace of ideas. Such was the case for Kim Kashkashian that evening, joined by longtime friends and colleagues Miriam Fried and Paul Biss. But what makes the dinner table an even more fitting beginning is the cruel paradox it represents, shedding light on an almost unbelievable American tragedy. The picture perfect dinner table is one of plenty, surrounded by worry-free culinary indulgence. But for nearly 1 in 7 Americans, the dinner table is an enemy born out of circumstance.
For those Americans, an estimated 49 million according to the USDA, the dinner table is symbolic of agrowing struggle with food insecurity.
The concept of music for a cause is a byproduct of a society that increasingly values social innovation and change. It has paved the way for countless new initiatives by artists and arts administrators, and has also helped to shift the role of outreach and engagement in the activities of existing arts organizations. This makes Music for Food part of a growing movement that espouses an artistic response to multiple cultural and societal issues. What helps to set it apart from others is its focus on fighting hunger in our home communities, and the process by which that happens.
Every Music for Food concert embodies a three-way partnership between artists, audience members, and a local hunger relief organization. Audience members enable artists with a platform for social responsibility through music, thus raising awareness. In exchange for their musical offering, audience members donate to Music for Food on behalf of a local food pantry. The actions of both provide a service to the pantry, which in turn brings aid to those in need. As a result, Music for Food has helped to provide over 100,000 meals to those in need since its inception.
Music for Food made its debut in Boston’s iconic Emmanuel Church in 2010. Since then it has grown significantly to include a series at New England Conservatory and Boston University, as well as collaborations and partnerships with more than 30 organizations nationwide. While Kim and I take some credit for its continued evolution, none of it would be possible without the dedication and support of a growing family of artists, audience members, donors, and volunteers. It’s what I’ve referred to time and time again as a community amongst communities. One newer member to this community is Vijay Venkatesh, a pianist at USC Thorton School of Music who is helping to spearhead Music for Food’s development in the Greater Los Angeles Area, with artist-faculty member Karen Dreyfus. Vijay recalls, “When I was first approached to get ivolved with Music for Food, my immediate response was yes,” and goes on to say, “The goals of this organization are ones after my own heart and I am humbled to have the opportunity to use my musical artistry to fight food insecurity in Los Angeles.”
On September 22nd, Music for Food kicks off its 5th season with a concert at Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center, presented by the Triple Helix Piano Trio. This is the trio’s second time collaborating with Music for Food, and the third appearance by pianist Lois Shapiro. To conclude, I asked Shapiro to share some thoughts on her continued involvement with Music for Food. Her testimony is a resounding affirmation of the organization’s mission, hopes, and goals, in which she states, “For me, there are two “essentials” in life: food and music! One nourishes the body, the other the spirit. MFF brings both of these together in a most creative way that reinforces a sense of community. It brings to our awareness our neighbors’ plight and gives us a way to reach out and give to each other. As a musician participating in a MFF concert, I am blessed with the opportunity to share music with those who might normally not attend classical music concerts, and, even after the last tones of the evening fade into the night air, the resonances of the concert live on–having farther-reaching implications and consequences, in feeding those in need.”
Music for Food’s Mission Statement
We believe both music and food are essential to human life and growth. Music has the power to call forth the best in human beings and can inspire awareness and action when artists and audiences work together.
Music for Food is a musician-led initiative for local hunger relief that sets forth a model applicable in every community. Concerts raise resources and awareness in the fight against hunger, empowering musicians of all ages who wish to use their artistry to further social justice.
To learn more, or to get involved, visit www.musicforfoodboston.org, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Cinnante joined Music for Food in 2013, and is entering his second season as the organization’s General Manager. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Triple Helix & Friends
All-Brahms program, featuring the Triple Helix Piano Trio
Thursday, September 25
Boston University—Tsai Performance Center
685 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
$10 suggested donation/$5 for students; all proceeds benefit the Boston University Student Food Rescue.
Songs With & Without Words
Works by Bach, Bolcom, and Mendelssohn, featuring Kim Kashkashian, Lisa Saffer, Max Levinson, Julie Scolnik, and the Parker and Ariel Quartets
Wednesday, October 22
Hope Central Church
85 Seaverns Avenue, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
$50 suggested donation; all proceeds benefit Music for Food’s educational outreach programs.